Justin Ashley (NHRA Photo)
Justin Ashley (NHRA Photo)

Q&A: NHRA Top Fuel Young Gun Justin Ashley

In his first full season of NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series competition, Justin Ashley enjoyed a successful year.

He earned his first Top Fuel victory on the way to capturing the NHRA Rookie of the Year Award. Ashley took some time recently to reflect on his successful rookie season while also looking ahead to the 2021 season.

Was your rookie season what you expected?

Ashley: “I think my rookie season went according to plan. It met and really exceeded my wildest expectations. Going into the year we wanted to run 12 races and we wanted to give ourselves an opportunity to win at every race, but at the same time we were realistic. We knew that in the Top Fuel category these are the best drivers in the world. These are the greatest teams and they are fantastic at what they do. To be able to go out there and to take the idea from paper to turn it into reality was a dream come true for me. It was more than I expected now that I am able to sit back and take it all in.”

How did the 2020 season make you a better driver?

Ashley: “More than anything else the more seat time you have the more you are going to experience different things. Coming into 2020 I only had very limited seat time in a Top Fuel car. We ran just three races in 2019 and a handful of test laps at the beginning of the season. Over the course of the season certain things would happen whether it was a pedal fest or tire shake or other instances where I would feel something in the clutch. The more laps you make the more you are going to experience different things, so for me it made me a better driver to get the overall experience of running races. I got a better understanding and feel for the race car.”

Biggest surprise of 2020 looking back at the whole season?

Ashley: “I am not sure if surprised is the right word but I was just humbled and taken back by how accommodating and nice all my fellow competitors were. When I look back and think about racing ,you think about the stuff on the track but even more so you remember the off the track moments. You are around your team and the racing community. Everybody in the Top Fuel category welcomed me with open arms. Being the new guy isn’t always the easiest thing. They made that transition for me super easy. A lot of racers went out of their way to talk with me or offer advice.”

What will be your 2-3 main areas of focus in this longer than usual off-season?

Ashley: “It is definitely a longer off season than usual. The longer you are out of the car the more difficult it is. In a lot of ways it is better in terms of being outside of the race car. It gives me the opportunity to focus on my real estate business. It also gives me the chance to focus on the business side of racing which is all about bringing marketing partners on which are a good fit for our program.”

“I am also going to make sure I am in the best physical and mental shape possible. Racing is all about doing the same thing every time. It is about consistency.”

So many people contributed to your success what would you like to say to them?

Ashley: “We had a fantastic rookie year and the truth of the matter is you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. I think that defines my life. I am very fortunate to have a team and family and sponsors that care about me and support me. When you are out there racing the last thing you want to be thinking about is what is going to happen if I lose. Everyone has been right on top of me having my back and knowing that no matter what the result is we are all in this together. Sponsors like Strutmasters.com, Auto Shocker, KATO really made me feel comfortable as well as MANSCAPED and host of other companies. I can’t put into words the amount of gratitude I have towards my family, this team and my sponsors. The 2020 Rookie of the Year award was not for me it was for our program as a whole. All the people that were involved all season won a piece of this award.”

Do you have any holiday travel plans?

Ashley: “The way I decompress is to go racing. The ironic part is now is when the stress kicks in. I haven’t put too much thought into holiday plans. For me no matter what I do it will be all about family. That will be the top priority for me. I am going to try and spend as much time with my family as I can.”

What are 2-3 goals you have set for yourself for 2021 season?

Ashley: “I am a firm believer in setting goals. We have a long way to go before the start of the season but our goal is to win every race. We want to give ourselves the opportunity to win at every race. That is goal number one. We also have the goal of putting ourselves in the best financial position to do that. On the track we need to be able to perform and off the track we need to be able to give ourselves the right resources.”